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The Challenges of Organizing Beer Competitions in Pandemic Times

Priscila Daniel
Priscila Daniel
Cover Image for The Challenges of Organizing Beer Competitions in Pandemic Times

For over a year, the pandemic has impacted all sectors of society, including beer competitions. While some countries, such as the United States, already see the light at the end of the tunnel, other nations still face challenges related to the worsening of the pandemic. The fact is that many beer competitions are still happening and organizers can learn a lot from them.

Many organizers are already venturing into face-to-face events for the judging of beers. Undoubtedly, conducting a face-to-face competition, with the involvement of hundreds of people, is a great responsibility for anyone, regardless of the size of the competition or their previous experience.

Recently, the National Homebrew Competition, an event of which BAP was a sponsor, showed a good example of organizing and holding a competition with all the necessary security protocols. BAP spoke with John Moorhead, Director of the Homebrew Association, to understand how the event was organized and carried out.

See how the National Homebrew Competition managed the process of organizing

Unlike other years, when judgments were held regionally, the 2021 event was judged in a unified manner, in a single warehouse that brought together all those involved in the competition. The decision was made so that the organization could have control of all processes involving the event.

In addition to providing greater security for those involved, the decision also brought other bonuses. Among them the possibility to hand-select the judges involved in the competition. The experts were chosen from an international list of recognized, certified judges and experts in the brewing industry.

What precautions are necessary to conduct a face-to-face beer competition before Covid-19

According to Moorhead, the rules were previously established, through the Health and Well-Being Guidelines, sent in advance to everyone involved. Prior knowledge of all security measures was essential to ensure the engagement of those involved. "The communication I did with the judges before the competition was the most I’ve ever done in a competition. I was sending at least one e-mail a week, about one big thing they needed to do or remember", comments Moorhead. In addition to email communications, an orientation video was also made.

During the event, all measures were inspected and monitored so that nothing went out of plan.

See below some measures adopted at the NHC:

  • The warehouse's capacity has been reduced. In a 20,000-foot shed, there were 100 people, including administrators, stewards, judges and other people involved.
  • Due to the contact of those involved for several hours, all wore double protection: masks and face shields, as recommended by the CDC. Face shields were used by judges even during sample tasting.
  • Even with the double protection measures, everyone involved was instructed to maintain social distance.
  • Each table had only two pairs of judges.
  • Reduced contact with objects: table captains were the only ones to handle cups and bottles; stewards didn't play any of these things; judges took care of their own waste and were the only ones to touch their notes and scorecards.
  • Hand sanitizers were available at all locations in the house.
  • The warehouse had a system that renewed the air completely periodically. Inside the warehouse there were four exhaust fans and two make up air vents that increase fresh air ventilation rates and percentage of outdoor air that circulates into the warehouse. Additionally, as much as possible the three garage bay doors were partially open to further increase fresh air inside the warehouse.
  • All meals were served outside the warehouse.
  • Anyone involved who presented discomfort or symptoms related to covid-19 was prohibited from attending the judging.

For safety reasons, alcohol intake was also controlled. Only judges were allowed to sample. Not even John Moorhead himself could taste the beers entered during the competition.

The entire process can be very stressful for the organizer as there is an overload of responsibility. “The last thing you want is an outbreak or that people get sick, so you take it seriously and add all this extra layer of something else you have to think about other than the process of getting the judgment right”, comments Moorhead. “It is always in the back of your head, if it's not in the front”, he completes.

Stress, in addition to being mental, is also physical. In the case of the NHC, the 2021 competition took place over a week, when it would normally take place over a weekend. Still, everything went very well.

For organizers looking to take on the challenge of organizing an event under current conditions, Moorhead leaves a message: you are not alone. “People are going to be willing to help you. Myself included. Obviously maybe not able to help you, but knowledge based and informational based, a lot of people are willing to help and answer questions”, he concludes.

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